Ballad of Athlone

Ballad of Athlone

By Aubrey de Vere


Does any man dream that a Gael can fear?

Of a thousand deeds let him learn but one!

The Shannon swept onwards broad and clear,

Between the leaguers and broad Athlone.


‘Break down the bridge!’ – Six warriors rushed

Through the storm of shot and the storm of shell;

With late but certain victory flushed.

The grim Dutch gunners eyed them well.


They wrench’d at the planks ‘mid a hail of fire;

They fell in death, their work half done;

The bridge stood fast; and nigh and nigher

The foe swarmed darkly, densely on.


“Oh, who for Erin, will strike a stroke?

Who hurl yon planks where the waters roar?

Six warriors forth from their comrades broke,

And flung them upon that bridge once more.


Again at the rocking planks they dashed;

And four dropped dead, and two remained;

The huge beams groaned, and the arch down-crashed –

Two stalwart swimmers the margin gained.


St. Ruth in his stirrups stood up, and cried,

“I have seen no deed like that in France!”

With a toss of his head, Sarsfield replied,

“They had luck, the dogs!’Twas a merry chance!


O many a year, upon Shannon’s side,

They sang upon moor and they sang upon heath,

Of the twain that breasted that raging tide,

And the ten that shook bloody hands with Death!

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